Sparring Class

Douglas Esposito Coach's Corner

VI. Getting into Sparring Class or MMA Practice

sparring class, vanguard gym

Let’s discuss getting into Sparring Class first. There are three areas that you must have developed skills in to be ready to get the most out of sparring: Physical, Technical, and Emotional. The purpose of sparring class is to allow you to learn to apply the techniques you are learning in a more realistic/live manner.

A. Physical – Sparring is a very arduous activity that you need to work up to. The pad work, bag work, and conditioning we do in the basics class is designed to prepare you over time for the increased demands of sparring class. You also need to have the proper safety gear to protect you and your teammates from the repeated contact sparring brings. Proper sparring gear consists of the following:

1. Head Gear: Don’t scrimp on headgear! You want headgear to fit well and provide a good level of protection. If it’s loose and moves around you will be constantly frustrated by it being in your eyes and not being able to see. Conversely, if it is too tight it will be very uncomfortable as well. Try on your headgear before you buy it – don’t just buy the cheapest stuff you can find – it won’t offer you adequate protection, and it will frustrate your best efforts.

2. Mouthpiece: Single, double, cheap, expensive, I don’t care, but you must wear one. A $2 piece of plastic can save you thousands at the dentist’s.

3. Sparring Gloves: 16 ounce sparring gloves, NOT bag gloves! Bag gloves are built for protecting your hands during the tens of thousands of hits during bag and pad work. Sparring gloves are built differently and are made for protecting your training partners’ noggins. Don’t buy gloves until you know the difference, and get the OK from Coach if you are getting them from anywhere other than the gym’s pro shop.

4. Cup: I shouldn’t even need to explain this.

5. Shin-pads: Check with Coach on the shin-pads you are planning on buying. They need to protect both you and the people you are kicking.

sparring class 02

B. Technical – If you don’t have an understanding of the basics then a sparring match can turn quickly into a “tying to punch each other in the head” match. We require members have a basic understanding and ability to apply attacks, defenses, and counters before they start sparring class. These things are all taught in the basics class.

Our sparring class progression allows you to apply attacks, defenses, and counters in isolated drills, combinations, and in varying degrees of intensity as you are ready for it. You must have decent technique before starting it though, otherwise it is just a miserable experience for people who don’t know what they are doing.

sparring class 01

C. Emotional – Getting hit in the face can make you mad. It can instantly make you furious. You need to be emotionally mature enough to put these feelings aside and get over it. Expecting to spar without getting hit is like thinking you are going to wrestle a pig without getting dirty.

You need to be able to learn from your mistakes and accept that you are going to get hit in sparring class; that’s why we wear gloves, headgear, and everything else. If you feel yourself getting angry, take five, breathe, and get over yourself. Leave your ego locked up in your trunk. Don’t just leave it outside, it may jump on somebody else on their way in the door. Lock that thing up, leave it at home, or better yet; take it out behind the shed and shoot it to put it out of its misery.

Get to know your team mates in the basic class, so that you know their personality and that they are good people, just trying to get better, just like you. This will help you keep things in perspective once they start trying to punch you in the face.

Our sparring progression is specifically designed to develop you technically, and get you used to contact in a gradual, controlled manner. Focus on technique, learn to deal with the hits, its just part of being a fighter.

sparring class 04

D. Cleared – Last but not least, you MUST be cleared by Coach to join the sparring class.

MMA Practice: You must be participating in BJJ, basic striking, and wrestling classes to be invited to join the MMA team and be part of their practices. If you are interested in MMA, let your coaches know, and get a good schedule together that will allow you to build all of your skills. Note that it is MMA PRACTICE and not a CLASS. During MMA practice we work on putting all of our skills together that we have built in the other classes. If you don’t have basic escapes, takedowns, takedown defense, and striking skills you will become a training dummy and not have much fun. Build your skill set separately and then put them together later at MMA practice. Developing proficiency at the parts and then combining them works. THIS IS THE BEST WAY TO BE GOOD AT COMPLEX PERFORMANCE BASED SKILLS. It’s SCIENCE. Knowledge Dropped. BOOM.